Generally, employers enjoy fairly wide latitude in making decisions about hiring, termination and workplace atmosphere. However, some actions may cross the legal line, especially when dealing with members of protected classes whom the law has deemed particularly vulnerable to discrimination.
Both Florida and federal laws prohibit age-based discrimination. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is a federal law prohibiting employers from making decisions using age as the sole criterion. This protection applies to employees over the age of 40 who work for an employer with a minimum of 20 employees. The Florida statute has no age threshold, recognizing that employers may discriminate against an employee for being older or for being younger. The Florida law applies to companies with at least 15 employees.
Reading the signs
When you feel your employer treats you unfairly, it can be hard to differentiate the motive for the treatment. Is it because the employer is simply being harsh, or does the behavior cross into unlawful discrimination? Some managers might make it easy for you by making age-related remarks, but many others know better than to make their motives explicit.
Differently treated from other employees
One way to tell is to compare your treatment to that of other employees. If you are systematically passed over in favor of less qualified, younger employees, you may be suffering from discrimination.
Patterns of disparate treatment
Another thing to look for is a pattern of behavior. One instance of unfair treatment could have a variety of motives. You might have a stronger case for discrimination if you notice older employees are consistently first in line for layoffs, targeted for harsher discipline or passed over for opportunities.
Trying to edge out older employees
Employers who want to get rid of older employees may try to make your workplace unpleasant so that you decide to quit. This can include verbal put-downs, moving you to an uncomfortable workplace and denying opportunities. Employers may also try to assemble a case against you to justify firing you. This often takes the form of formal discipline and write-ups for matters the company lets other employees get away with. Your performance reviews may also begin to plummet although your performance does not change.